- As President, Dr Magufuli brought his political and life philosophy to the fore. He was committed to checking political corruption in public office and reducing public spending and wasteful expenditure.
Written By Hadiza Nuhu Billa - John Joseph Pombe Magufuli was born on October 20, 1959 at Chato, Geita, in Tanganyika, the mainland component of Tanzania.
Tanganyika and the island of Zanzibar united and created the United Republic of Tanzania in 1964.
He had his primary and secondary school education at the Chato Primary School and Katoke Seminary in Biharamuto and Lake Secondary School from 1967-1974 and 1975 -1978, respectively.
John furthered his pre-university education at the Mkwawa High School (1979-1981) and the Mkwawa College of Education for a Diploma in Education and Chemistry.
He earned a BSc Degree in Chemistry and Mathematics at the University of Dar es Salaam in 1988. At the same university, he obtained an MSc Degree in Chemistry in 1994.
While in public service as a minister, John studied and secured a DSc Degree in Chemistry in 2009.
He started his career as a teacher at Sengerema Secondary School from 1982 to 1983 and went back to school – University of Dar es Salaam - for his masters and doctorate degrees in Chemistry.
With his doctorate degree, it is surprising that the former educationist did not return to the classroom to cut out an academic career. Instead, he worked as an industrial chemist at the Nyam Cooperative Union Limited from 1989 to 1995.
It was while at Nyam Cooperative limited that he earned his MSc degree.
In 1995, he was elected as a Parliamentarian for the Chato Constituency under the ticket of the CCM party and served as a deputy minister, and later minister, at various ministries from 2006 to 2015.
When President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, his predecessor, had served his final term, John presented himself as a candidate of the CCM party for the October 2015 presidential election which he won with a landslide. He was sworn in on November 5, 2015.
As President, Dr Magufuli brought his political and life philosophy to the fore. He was committed to checking political corruption in public office and reducing public spending and wasteful expenditure.
To improve the Tanzanian economy and setting it on the take-off path, President Magufuli embraced the practice of adding value to raw materials, such as farm produce and mineral ore.
He promoted metal smelting in Tanzania and discouraged export of raw farm produce and metal ore.
Tanzania is rich in mineral resources such as tin, phosphate, iron ore, coal, diamonds, gemstones, gold, natural gas and nickel.
Tanzania’s chief cash crops include coffee, sisal, tea, cotton and cashew.
He has, so far, achieved part of the target he has set. The Tanzanian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) went up to 5.8 per cent in 2018 and 6 per cent in 2019.
Tanzanian’s high economic growth rate is one of the highest in Africa, and it’s coupled with the development of infrastructure.
Other measures President Magufuli took that will serve as a lasting monument has been his drive to discourage excessive government expenditure and wasteful spending.
He stopped unnecessary foreign travels by government officials and introduced the use of cheap, instead of expensive vehicles, for government officials.
For example, he cut down the government delegation to the Commonwealth from 50 to four and stopped lavish events and parties by public institutions.
Above all, President Magufuli slashed his own salary from $15,000 to $4,000 a month.
When Tanzania’s 54th year independence anniversary was due, President Magufuli suspended the celebration and joined the people to do a clean-up campaign.
That was when cholera was spreading in that country. President Magufuli reckoned that the clean-up campaign would curb the cholera.
He has said, that it was “so shameful that we are spending huge amounts of money to celebrate 54 years of independence when our people are dying of cholera’’.
Twelve months into his presidency, Dr Magufuli reduced his cabinet from 30 to 19.
The other side of President Magufuli that many people, including his political opponents, hate, are his odd and controversial decisions.
For an example, his position on homosexuality in Tanzania. True to African culture, President Magufuli is vehemently opposed to homosexuality.
Violation of laws on homosexuality now attracts imprisonment up to 30 years.
He has, also, adopted a controversial and unpopular HIV/AIDS policy. The government, in 2016, banned the HIV/AIDS outreach project in his country.
He stopped an HIV programme that made HIV testing, use of condoms and healthcare available to Tanzanians and, thereafter, closed down private HIV clinics in Tanzania.
On family planning, he holds a queer position on the matter of reducing and spacing of family size of Tanzanians.
Family planning is a widely accepted method in the world and African countries have embraced it to control population size.
President Magufuli, in 2018, addressed a political rally in Tanzania as follows: ‘’Those going for family planning are lazy. They are afraid they will not be able to feed their children.
“They did not want to work hard to feed a large family and that is why they opt for birth control and end up with one or two children”.
Tanzania’s population grows at three per cent a year. In 2019, Tanzania’s population was 58,005,463.
A three per cent yearly population growth is abnormal for the economy of a developing country. High population growth rate reduces per capita GDP and increases poverty.
On the highly infectious COVID-19 disease, Tanzania has not been spared in its spread across the globe. But Dr Magufuli has not brought his high academic credentials to bear on the global pandemic.
According to world meters online, Tanzania has 509 cases of infections and 21 deaths.
President Magufuli is opposed to all medical prescriptions to arrest the spread of COVID-19. Instead, he advised Tanzanians to inhale boiled neem leaves and onions for a cure of COVID-19.
To him, the best cure for COVID-19 is a prayer to God. At a recent church service in Tanzania, he told the congregation: “Coronavirus in our country has been removed by the power of God”.
President Magufuli is a devout Catholic. He is married to Janet Magufuli. Both have three children.
He is the current president of the Southern African Development Community.